Did you see Carli Lloyd in the news this week?
The women’s soccer star was filmed booting 55 yard field goals in a training session with the Philadelphia Eagles. It led the NFL executive Gil Brandt to say she had the ‘physical capabilities to kick in men’s football’.
Whether she does is open to debate but one thing it does do is put the role of women in the NFL right back on the agenda.
And it’s not just on the playing side of things. Since Jen Welter became the first female coach in history at the Arizona Cardinals four years ago, TEN NFL coaches have recruited women onto their staff, including two on the same team at the Buccaneers.
So, are we about to enter a new era of female influence in the NFL? If so, why has this happened? And what effect could this have on the game?
Let’s take a deeper look.
They bring new ideas
It’s no secret that football has been rocked by its link to horrific diseases such as Alzheimer’s and CTE in recent years. The series of lawsuits against the NFL from former players has led to calls for revolutionary rule changes and playing methods.
Many people in the sport are looking for fresh ideas.
Bruce Arians, the owner who recruited Jen Welter in 2015, is one of them. He remarked how the sport has ignored half of the population in the past so why not open it up for everyone?
Maybe he has a point. Maybe the sport needs new ideas: new alternatives to the aggressive playing styles that have caused so many head injuries.
In a sport battling against controversy after controversy, it could be that women guide it into a new era of prosperity
A 2014 study by Business Insider claims that women are BETTER leaders in the corporate world than men. Women like Safra Catz and Marillyn Hewson are running Fortune 500 companies, after all.
49ers coach Katie Sowers made the point that the more diverse an organisation is, the better it operates because it incorporates so many different perspectives.
In the same interview, fellow coach Phoebe Schecter talks about it helping you buy that crucial extra one percent that can make all the difference in such a high-stakes sport.
And while sport is clearly a different kettle of fish, there is a multitude of skills such as people management and strategy that can be transferred over.
Better leadership includes open-mindedness, something that embraces innovation and could help teams move away from the mindlessly aggressive side of the sport.
And let’s face it, anything that leads to less deaths amongst ex-athletes has to be a positive thing.
Look around you at your next game, who’s sitting around you?
The number of female NFL fans is going through the roof. A recent survey found that they make up 45% of the overall fanbase, a huge increase from a decade ago.
More women coaches and players in the game would reflect this rise. It would give girls role models to aspire to and increase overall interest in the sport, at a time when game attendances are decreasing.
They’re changing views
One important thing that more female coaches and players could bring to the game, as well as society, is a shift in views towards women.
The NFL itself has been hit by scandals involving its players using violence against women. A famous incident involving Ray Rice knocking out his fiance at a casino made the news in 2014. As well as Kareem Hunt who was recorded pushing and kicking a 19 year old woman last year.
If we see more women in the game then attitudes towards them will start to change. Players will respect women who add something to the sport and it might just make them think twice about how they behave towards them in general.
Imagine little boys growing up with the likes of Carli Lloyd as their heroes. Often it’s just a singular catalyst that can bring about a sea-change.
And finally…sport loves a fairy tale
The idea of a woman playing in the hyper-masculine NFL has captured imaginations.
Just picture it: Carli Lloyd, all 140lb of her, up against guys more than twice her size. And what if she comes out on top and becomes a success?
Isn’t that what sport is all about? Overcoming huge odds and defying belief? It’s what got us hooked as kids, the thought that the impossible could happen –
‘Impossible is nothing’ after all, according to NFL sponsors Nike.
It also teaches us to be fearless, to have a fighting spirit – which is exactly what women like Carli Lloyd will embody if they step onto a football pitch.